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Movie Review

The Edge of Love

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The Edge of Love feels like two markedly different films -- one a promising, glamorous tale of two couples living a bohemian lifestyle in 1940s war-torn London, and the other a drab and soggy meltdown of infidelity and misery in Wales where illusions are shattered. The film attempts to explore the complexities of first love and last love and how some friendships can't last. But director John Maybury (Love Is the Devil, The Jacket) made a mistake when he decided to focus on the love affair -- emotional, not sexual -- between the two female leads, rather than making a straightforward biopic on the far more interesting Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who comes between them. Real-life Welshman Matthew Rhys brings the most authentic performance to the film as the seductive and darkly malevolent poet whose words act as a Greek chorus echoing the story line.

The film opens on Keira Knightley, making her singing debut, all cheekbones and flawless makeup, with "Underneath the Blue Tahitian Moon" in a smoky, underground nightclub. If only the film was as mesmerizing as the two scenes Knightley spends crooning in that lovely soprano. Perhaps this is due to Maybury's experience as a music video director and Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart) minding the synthy score. Knightley is in familiar territory, playing a woman whose fiercely independent nature is but a mask for her innocent vulnerability. As Vera Phillips, she is confronted with two men vying for her affection: Dylan, her childhood love, and the lovelorn soldier William Killick (Cillian Murphy). In contrast, Sienna Miller plays Dylan's vivacious wife, Caitlin, who brings a playful, irresponsible vibe to the foursome. In the first part of the film, the four straddle a very fine line between flirting and fighting. In the second part, everything turns sour and dangerous.

Rhys' Dylan reveals that the beauty that artists produce is not a direct reflection of how they treat the people in their lives. His familial interactions with Knightley show how two people can be poisoned with each other. Their inevitable tryst is disappointingly anti-climactic, since so much of the story rests on the believability of Knightley and Miller as the central love affair. They simply don't share enough genuine chemistry. The scenes in which they mind their children are even worse -- neither woman seems the least bit maternal.

Murphy's transformation in the film is the most dramatic. William starts off a well-intentioned romantic whose only motivation seems to be hearing those three magical words from Vera. He ends the story cold, detached, altered in the worst way by World War II -- a change that manifests in disturbing ways. By the end, we're only rooting for Dylan -- a most unsavory character -- and barely so.

Genre: Drama
Director: John Maybury
Writer: Sharman Macdonald
Starring: Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller, Cillian Murphy, Matthew Rhys

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